Tag Archives: Bald Eagle

Exploring the Fakahatchee Strand Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk! (Southwest Florida)

Welcome! Today’s virtual hike will take us deep into southwest Florida’s Fakahatchee Strand Preserve via the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. I hope you got your binoculars with you because this boardwalk is chock full of flora and fauna goodness!

Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk

Before we begin you may be wondering what in the world is a strand? A strand is generally shallow and has formed where the underlying limestone dissolved. The most common trees found are Bald Cypress, Royal Palm and Red Maple. Within the strand are numerous sloughs which are deeper channels of water. The Fakahatchee Strand is one of the most ecologically rich areas found in the greater Everglades ecosystem.

The Fakahatchee Strand is the world’s largest subtropical strand stretching around 20 miles long and about five miles wide and is the only one with a mixed Royal Palm and Cypress canopy. The park is the largest state park in Florida and contains more native orchids than any other area found in North America. This is why the nickname of the Fakahatchee Strand is the Orchid Swamp.

There are four sections in the park:

  1. Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
  2. The East River
  3. The Jones Grade Lakes
  4. Janes Memorial Drive

The Fakatchee Strand was harvested for its cypress for ten years stretching from 1944-1954 with the exception of the portion we will explore today. The former logging site was then turned into a state park.

Birds, mammals and reptiles common to the Fakahatchee Stand include:

Common plants include:


Ready? Let’s go!  As we walk along there are interpretive signs indicating the flora and fauna found in the Fakahatchee Strand. The trail from the parking lot to the boardwalk is about 856 feet long. The actual boardwalk is 2,300 feet or about .6 of a mile. The boardwalk ends at an observation deck at an alligator pond.

Laurel Oak

Here we have come across a Laurel Oak. The Laurel Oak’s native habitat includes swamps and wet hammocks. The tree can reach heights of 100 feet. In Florida, many homeowners use this tree for their yards.

Live Oak

Next we have a Live Oak. The Live Oak grows to about a maximum of fifty feet in height. The Live Oak’s acorns are popular with wildlife.

Great Egret

A blur of white appears to the side as we walk the boardwalk. Check out the beak on this bird! It’s a Great Egret. In the early 1900’s the Great Egret was pushed to the edge of extinction due to the high demand for its feathers for women’s hats. This of course was before the Migratory Bird Act of 1918.

Strangler Fig

As we walk along a huge old-growth Bald Cypress is being attacked by something. That something is a Strangler Fig. The Strangler Fig reminds me of sculptures found in the movie Beetlejuice. The tree starts life as an air plant (aka epiphyte). Once the roots of the Strangler Fig touch the ground the plant is no longer an epiphyte but is now considered a terrestrial plant. Strangler Figs can reach heights of 50-60 feet.

Sabal Palm

Royal Palm is found here. The tree is native to southern Florida and is commonly planted. But here it is wild and not planted.


A Limpkin is around the corner but appears a tad blurry. I thought I just got my eyes checked? You won’t find Limpkins up north. In fact, Florida is the only state in the United States with a Limpkin population.


As we walk along there are beautiful Iris in full bloom.

Water Snake

As we walk looking at the Iris flowers and other vegetation we spot something that at first looks like rope. This snake means us no harm and we keep walking.


We see many dead trees as we walk. Dead trees (aka snags) serve a valuable purpose. Insects consume the tree which provide food for a variety of birds. Woodpeckers make holes which serve their young and later provide shelter for animals such as the raccoon.

River Otter

Splash! A River Otter makes a surprise appearance. What an honor to meet its acquaintance before it slips beneath the water.


Next we come across a hungry River Cooter who is eating non-stop. River Cooters eat anything it finds. It’s not picky! Let’s keep going!


Check out this guy. It is a Cormorant aka fish hawk. There must be a lot of fish in these waters to keep seeing birds like the Great Egret and this guy.

Coffee Tree

Nice! We have come across Wild Coffee. Wild Coffee is evergreen and grows to a maximum of eight feet in height. The seeds resemble coffee (hence its name) but is not actually used for coffee.


And here is the star of today’s walk: an American Alligator. I think we will keep on moving and leave this guy to his day.


There are many types of ferns as we walk on the boardwalk. Among them include:

Alligator Pond

We have now arrived at the end of the boardwalk. Straight ahead of us is an alligator pond teeming with wildlife (including guess who? American Alligators!)


Thank you for exploring the Fakahatchee Strand Big Cypress Boardwalk with NJUrbanForest.com!

Click below for a list of plants found in the Fakahatchee Strand!

Fakahatchee Strand Flora

Directions taken from FloridaHikes.com:

From Naples, drive 17.1 miles east from the intersection of CR 951 (Collier Blvd) along US 41 (Tamiami Trail), passing Collier-Seminole State Park and Port of the Isles. There is a very large sign on the right, but parking is in a small space to the left. Do not block the gate to the Miccosukee Village. From the east, the boardwalk is 6.9 miles west of the blinker at the intersection of US 41 and SR 27 near Everglades City, which is 17 miles south of the I-75 Everglades City / Immokalee exit.

Check out the books below for more information on Florida’s swamps!

  1. The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise
  2. Exploring Everglades National Park and the Surrounding Area: A Guide to Hiking, Biking, Paddling, and Viewing Wildlife in the Region (Exploring Series)
  3. Everglades: America’s Wetland
  4. Florida’s Wetlands (Florida’s Natural Ecosystems and Native Species)

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Check out the latest flora and fauna sightings here!

Be sure to check out the Friends of Fakahatchee Strand for all the latest happenings!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking Disney’s Wilderness Preserve!

The Nature Conservancy's The Disney Wildnerness Preserve

The Nature Conservancy’s The Disney Wildnerness Preserve

Welcome to the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve!

Disney Wilderness Preserve

Disney Wilderness Preserve

The core of The Disney Wilderness Preserve is comprised of what was once an 8,500-acre cattle ranch situated at the head of the Everglades watershed. In the early 1990s, the ranch was slated for extensive development which would have destroyed wetlands found on the site. Walt Disney World in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy purchased the property to offset further development of the Walt Disney World Resort. The purchase is considered to be one of the earliest and largest off-site wetland mitigation projects in the United States.

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

An additional 3,000 acres were added in 1995 by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority to help mitigate ongoing expansion at the airport bringing the Disney Wilderness Preserve to its current size. Today, the Disney Wilderness Preserve consists of 12,000 acres including an estimated 4,000 acres of enhanced wetlands. 

Healthy Central Florida Ecosystem

Healthy Central Florida Ecosystem

The Disney Wilderness Preserve provides habitat for an estimated 300 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians including:

The Wilderness Trail Virtual Tour

Disney Wilderness Preserve Trail Map

Click Here for the DWP Trail Map

Welcome! Let’s take a virtual tour somewhere where it is always green: Central Florida’s Disney Wilderness Preserve! Let’s go!

Disney Wilderness Preserve Nature Center

Disney Wilderness Preserve Nature Center

Before we start our walk, let’s head inside the visitor center to check out the displays and sign in (we’ll need to sign out too).

Wilderness Trail Entrance

Wilderness Trail Entrance

Heading northeast, we see a sign for the Wilderness Trail entrance. Let’s not fool ourselves, the paved sidewalk will end soon.

Nature Conservancy Trail Blaze

Nature Conservancy Trail Blaze

The blazes we will be following have the Nature Conservancy logo.

Disney Wildnerness Preserve Pond

Disney Wilderness Preserve Pond

Walking northeast from the visitor center a scenic pond appears to our right. Let’s pause a moment to see if there is anything poking around.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

Take a look! There’s a Wood Stork!  Found throughout Florida, the Wood Stork’s preferred habitat includes grasslands and wetlands. The Wood Stork rookery found in the Disney Wilderness Preserve is thought to be the most studied in the world.

Cypress Dome

Cypress Dome

Straight ahead of us is a unique stand of trees known as a Cypress Dome. A Cypress Dome are dominated by Pond Cypress and Tupelo trees among other species.  Pond Cypress trees are often tallest in the center of the Cypress Dome which gives the appearance of a dome when viewed from a distance hence its name. Heading southeast for the next .27 of a mile the Cypress Dome will appear to our right. After walking .27, the trail splits heading straight and to the right. If we turn right, the trail will take us back to the nature center. I don’t think we are ready to quit just yet, we just got started! Let’s continue straight.

Lake Russell This Way

Lake Russell This Way

Continuing straight another estimated .10 of a mile we see a sign directing us  to the Lake Russell Trail. Let’s take it!

Spanish Moss

Spanish Moss

As we walk towards the swamp forest surrounding Lake Russell, something dangling above our heads catches our eyes. It’s Spanish Moss, which is not really a moss at all but rather a flowering plant!

But wait, there’s something else dangling above our heads….

Massive Spider

Golden Silk Spider

A massive Golden Silk Spider! Let’s keep moving!

The estimated .14 of a mile trail takes us through a dense Cypress Wetland Forest which surrounds the lake on all sides (a rare sight in densely developed Central Florida!)

Cypress Wetland Forest Surrounding Lake Russell

Cypress Wetland Forest Surrounding Lake Russell

The Cypress has a lifespan of hundreds of years and is found throughout the wetlands of the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

Lake Russell

Lake Russell

What a view! Beautiful Lake Russell is fed by Reedy Creek which is part of the northernmost Headwaters of the Everglades.



Heading back out through the swamp forest we find ourselves in the open savannah of the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem. Once estimated covering around 90 million acres in the southeastern United States, the Longleaf Pine ecosystem is now reduced to around an estimated two million acres, most of which is found on private land. The Longleaf Pine thrives on poor sandy soils.



The Longleaf Pine ecosystem is associated with natural fires which occur naturally every two to four years. Naturally occurring fires reduce the amount of litter on the ground which provides breathing room for Longleaf Pine seeds to germinate. Due to the surrounding development, controlled fires are conducted at the Disney Wilderness Preserve as this burned snag demonstrates. The endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, whose primary habitat is found in the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem, was successfully reintroduced in 2007 in the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

As we walk we know the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is present but we do not see any today. But look up! A Palm Warbler is watching us from its perch.

Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto, found all around us, is a common understory plant of the Disney Wilderness Preserve. This tough plant is one of the first to send up new leaves within a week or two after a forest fire.

Shrub Oak

Chapman Oak

Occasionally as we walk a tall shrub appears. This shrub is Chapman Oak. Without frequent fire, Chapman Oak would form dense thickets preventing the establishment of Longleaf Pine.

Trail through Longleaf Pine Savannah

Trail through Longleaf Pine Savannah

Whew! It’s getting hot. Let’s keep our mind off the heat for a moment and think about a bird found in the Disney Wilderness Preserve which is present but we do not spot during our walk. The bird in reference is the  Florida Scrub-Jay, classified as threatened under the endangered species act and is the only bird endemic to Florida.


Like a mirage in the distant, the pond we passed when we first started out is ahead and the trail has come to an end. I hope you enjoyed our virtual tour of the Disney Wilderness Preserve and that it inspires you to visit it for yourself!

Click Below to check out a list of plants found in Disney’s Wilderness Preserve!

Disney Wilderness Preserve Flora

Address & Contact Information

The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve
2700 Scrub Jay Trail
Kissimmee, FL 34759
Phone: (407) 935-0002
For more Information on the Disney Wilderness Preserve Check out the Attached!
Ecology Books!
Highlighting the efforts of nine extraordinary leaders, Nature’s Keepers examines the organization’s culture and management, strategy and decisions, and courageous and ingenious individuals who have dedicated their lives to conservation. Click Here for more information!
Introduces readers to the trees and plants, insects, mammals, reptiles, and other species that live in Florida’s unique wetlands ecosystem, including the Virginia iris, American white waterlily, cypress, treefrogs, warblers, and the Florida black bear. Click Here for more information!
Feel free to Comment with Questions, Memories or Suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Exploring Bogota’s Oscar E Olsen Park

Oscar E. Olsen Park

Welcome to Oscar E. Olsen Park!  The park consists of the largest remaining open space in Bogota, NJ and should be considered it’s crown jewel.

Oscar E Olsen Park

Oscar E Olsen Park

Oscar E Olsen Park was built on former marshland adjacent to the Hackensack River.


Though an urban park, wildlife abounds for the patient observer. I was rewarded with a Bald Eagle flying over the Hackensack River along with an American Goldfinch.

Oscar E Olsen Park 2.15  Bald Eagle on Hackensack (2)

Bald Eagle over Hackensack River

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch Oscar E Olsen Park

A focal point of the park is a bridge known as  “The Olsen Park Hackensack River Environmental Walkway”.  The walkway is a raised boardwalk strategically built next to the Hackensack River. Educational signs have been  placed with assistance from  the  Hackensack Riverkeeper and Ducks Unlimited with information on the fauna of the adjacent Hackensack River. The signs describe typical flora and fauna of the Hackensack River and the nearby Meadowlands.

Olsen Park Environmental Boardwalk

The Olsen Park Hackensack River Environmental Walkway was originally built in 1993. From the walkway you can view the nearby World War II era submarine USS Ling.

USS Ling

USS Ling with Bergen County Courthouse in background

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority added educational signage regarding flora and fauna found in this section of the Hackensack River which is just north of the New Jersey Meadowlands.

Educational Signage


There is a pathway which extends from the bridge that encircles the park.

Olsen Park Walkway

Olsen Park is a great place to explore and view wildlife on the Hackensack River.

Olsen Park Cottonwood Trees


From NYC: Go West over the George Washington Bridge; Route 4 west; get off at the exit for River Road just before the bridge over the Hackensack River.  Head south on River Road.  At the junction with West Main Street on the left, turn right.  On the left is an entrance for the park.

Feel free to comment with any questions, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!